As you may have heard already, BbWorld 2012 will have five key themes this year – each Feature Theme Session will be presented by thought leaders in Education. We rolled out the theme “Social Learning” last week and now we are proud to announce the Feature Theme Session Keynote Speaker for Digital Content – Tom Caswell! An Open Education Policy Associate at Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, Tom handles special projects that directly impact the power of Digital Content such as running the Open Course Library, piloting a community college Open Learning Initiative (OLI) in Washington State, and supporting the OPEN initiative for Department of Labor C3T grantees. As a Policy Associate, Tom also raises awareness about the use of Digital Content and sets policies for sharing content.
In case you missed it, Jarl Jonas, Director of CourseSites, blogged earlier this week and shared two very exciting announcements for all users. Originally posted to the new CourseSites Blog on April 16, 2012: As a free resource for individual educators, CourseSites has removed a common barrier of access to teaching and learning technology. While a significant milestone in itself, we understand further barriers exist for many individuals, particularly impeding access to education and information. CourseSites seeks to eliminate these barriers, and we are very excited to announce two ways we are doing so. First, all CourseSites instructors can now choose to make courses available for open enrollment. We believe this will open up a new realm of Open Education possibilities and opportunities. Second, we are proud to launch our Open Course Series: Empowering Learning through Community with our first open course on “Instructional Ideas and Technology Tools for Online Success” led by Dr. Curtis Bonk and the CourseSites team. We invite you to try this new feature and join us for our first open course. About Dr. Curtis Bonk: Curt Bonk is Professor of Instructional Systems Technology at Indiana University and President of CourseShare,LLC. Drawing on his background as a corporate controller, CPA, educational psychologist, and instructional technologist, Bonk offers unique insights into the intersection of business, education, psychology, and technology. A well-known authority on emerging technologies for learning, Bonk reflects on his speaking experiences around the world in his popular blog, TravelinEdMan. He has coauthored several widely used technology books, including The World is Open, Empowering Online Learning, The Handbook of Blended Learning, and Electronic Collaborators.
To kick off our Building Blocks Rock series I decided to interview Patricia Goldweic of Northwestern University. Patricia has been working with Blackboard of the past few years spearheading development of the Bboogle Building Block that allows schools to leverage Google Apps for Education within their Blackboard Learn environments. Her work on Bboogle earned her a nomination for this year’s Innovative Developer Catalyst Awards. Chris Borales: Patricia, tell us a bit about your background. How did you get into web development? Patricia Goldweic: My background is computer science (I have bachelor and master’s degrees in computer science). I got into web development as part of my job as a developer, initially for Cognitive Arts, and then for Northwestern University. CB: So, how did you get started developing Building Blocks? PG: I got started developing building blocks around 2002 (my first year at Northwestern University). I believe my first real building block was probably a first version of what eventually came to be known as the open source File Bridge project (an integration of Bb and the Xythos web file management system). CB: How did the Bboogle project come about? PG: Back in the Summer of 2008, my supervisor asked me to experiment with and prototype, a first simple integration between Blackboard and Google Apps, as he was being approached by some faculty interested in exploring the possible connection between the two. We had quite a bit of experience at this point in integrating Bb with external systems while providing a ‘link making’ capability that allowed instructors to embed links to the relevant external content (by this time we had done integrations with the Xythos web file management system, the Plone content management system, the Refworks bibliographic data management system, and had also created a general ‘bridge/Application link maker’ building block among others). So this integration with Google Apps seemed like a worthy goal to embark on, given the great potential that Google Apps presented in terms of facilitating collaboration, and although many of the relevant apis had not yet been released by Google.
It’s always fascinating to talk to customers and learn how diverse their technology needs are. Blackboard Collaborate™ customers use a wide variety of learning management systems (LMSs), ranging from commercial solutions like Blackboard Learn or Desire2Learn®, to open source installations like Moodle®, Sakai®, and others. Customers tell us the same thing over and over again: They need software partners who can support the learning and collaboration needs of their learners no matter what LMS they have now or may have in the future. A key component of Blackboard Collaborate’s core philosophy is to provide integrations across a variety of LMS and technology portfolios that are on campus. We want to enhance the teaching and learning experience regardless of the LMS or community portal system used. Commitment to Openness – Integrations built by Blackboard and our Partners Our commitment to openness is borne out by the fact that Blackboard Collaborate offers several fully supported integrations with most of the major EDU-focused LMS providers. In addition, we offer customers and other LMS providers access to an API toolkit so they can create custom integrations. Software providers like Agilix (BrainHoney), itslearning, Epsilen and Desire2Learn have already created custom web conferencing integrations. And more partner-developed integrations are on the way later this year. These partnerships support Blackboard Collaborate’s open-integration philosophy. By providing integrations with the most common education-focused LMS providers, across all collaboration capabilities, Blackboard Collaborate helps institutions save on travel and infrastructure costs, while increasing interaction and engagement and improving learning outcomes. Annie Chechitelli, VP Of Strategy and Operations, on Blackboard Collaborate’s open integrations philosophy.
So you may have heard that with Blackboard Learn’s latest release, Service Pack 8, command-line Snapshot has been deprecated. It’s true, but it’s not as scary as it sounds. There are a couple things to note when we talk about command-line Snapshot’s deprecation: First, all existing command-line Snapshot integrations will NOT be effected by a Service Pack 8 upgrade, and if you have an existing integration it WILL continue to work. Second, Blackboard introduced in Service Pack 6 and further refined in Service Pack 8, the SIS Integration Framework. The framework was created to streamline the way Blackboard Learn interacts with student information systems. The framework gives system administrators a user interface to administrate their SIS integrations and will do the work of your existing command-line Snapshot integration, with some additional functionality.